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Creating a sustainable, inclusive swimwear brand under $/€50 (Not made in China)

I have been very inspired by the film The True Cost and there is an urgent need to promote sustainable clothing among the mass. I was anyways associated with fashion as the Business Head of a fashion magazine and this film was an eye opener.

The whole idea of globalization was that Consumers in the rich world would get cheaper goods and the consumers in the poorer parts would get jobs and work their way out of poverty. In reality this has not happened. 

 

If you look around on Amazon.com you will find an entire range of swimwear between $20–30 which is mass produced (Either in China, Vietnam, Indonesia). These are products (Not brands) which cater to the mass market in Europe & USA. Mostly made of nylon blended with Lycra for elasticity. I want to build a product which everybody can afford; is trendy, comfortable (defies stereotype bodies) and profitable.

This led me to think whether we can develop and manufacture a brand in USA/Europe and still offer a great product at a price point of $/€50 that excites the consumer and helps upgrade the $20–30 price point shoppers with a better offering (Trendy, Inclusive, Sustainable). It all started with shopping for a gift for my friend on her birthday. 

The answer is Yes. Read on…

The swimwear market is unbelievably big. And very competitive too. Roughly at $20bn growing to $25bn in 5 years. 2021 is going to be the year of swimwear with people hitting the beaches & the swimming pools with gusto (We are sure to have the vaccine by then). This also comes on the back of a consumer interest in swimming as a recreational and fitness activity.

Trends in swimwear are changing. While the flaunt factor with “aspirational” v-shaped bodies are still prevalent, women are increasingly looking at swimwear that is trendy, comfortable & sustainable. Sustainability is a “sexy” word now. Sustainable swimwear has been there for quite a while, but now becoming a main talking point, a main message and a main selling point. In fact it was also a major talking point throughout Miami Swim Week, across brands, runway shows, activities and even the venues themselves. With an easy accessibility of recycled materials, such as Repreve (Fiber made from recycled materials) and Econyl (Regenerated nylon) the fabric costs have become more affordable than before.

However being “sustainable” is definitely not affordable. Or it seems so. Doing a survey of over 50 swimwear brands on the internet I have found that they are anywhere between $50 — $150 (No upper limit for luxury brands). But the fact that during discounted periods the prices are a tad below 50, it can be done. Currently sustainability is marked as a niche with supernormal profits. But can we offer a great product under $/€50?

I dug deeper, talked to a few friends in the fashion industry and found out that it is very much possible.

The business model needs to be entirely online.

You will need to break down the costs of selling a swimwear which is: a) Fabric b) Trims c) Printing d) Sewing e) Packaging f) Shipping g) Marketing. A typical swimwear may have 22 operations with total SAM value of approximately 7 mins. If we were to produce this in USA/Europe the labor cost/unit is $2.5.

Shipping will be around $3/unit. Fabric+Trims+Printing+Packaging need to be kept under $15 to keep the cost under $50. Then a 40–50% gross margin is possible. So the money lies in driving volumes. Of course SKUs need to be reduced. One has to be a cost freak. And automate the entire process

It can be done. Made profitable. Made environment friendly as well. Suggestions are most welcome.

I will be building and marketing this brand (With the required investments) at the POC stage and looking to partner with rebel designers. Comments are most welcome at bjbasu@gmail.com or in this blog post 

This article has been re posted here which I originally wrote the online publishing platform Medium which can be read with this link

Biswajyoti (Raja) Basu

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